CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jenaro Torres is on trial for murder in the 1992 disappearance of Pearl Harbor cashier Ruben Gallegos. Torres listened in court yesterday to opening statements.
Defense: Murder victim Gallegos is alive
Jenaro Torres' trial in the disappearance of Ruben Gallegos begins
The defense team in a 15-year-old murder case hopes to prove in court that the murder victim is not dead, but only missing.
Not only is he missing, but 19-year-old Ruben Gallegos also was a willing accomplice in the 1992 robbery that caused his disappearance, Deputy Public Defender Ed Harada argued during opening arguments.
Jenaro Torres, 58, faces a second-degree murder charge for the May 1, 1992, disappearance of Gallegos. The body was never found, but Torres was later found with Gallegos' belongings and $78,000. The jury trial began yesterday morning in Circuit Court.
Gallegos was last seen alive leaving the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Exchange with Torres, who was then a Department of Defense civilian police officer assigned to Pearl Harbor.
Torres was not scheduled to work that day, but showed up at Gallegos' cashier cage armed and in uniform . The pair left with $80,000 in cash inside a leather bag, which was to be used to cash military paychecks.
Torres showed up five hours later at the military gate and his vehicle was searched. The leather bag containing all but $2,000 of the cash was in the trunk, along with a stun gun, Torres' police uniform, and Gallegos' wallet and hairbrush.
Torres was convicted in federal court for robbery and served two years. He was released in 1994. Harada alleged that Gallegos is afraid of facing a similar sentence if found.
"This case starts out as a mystery, and will end in a mystery," Harada said. "This was an inside job. You will see evidence that he's missing, not dead. All these years, he's been hiding."
But Deputy Attorney General Susan Won said there has been no trace of Gallegos since that day. He had no passport, no money from his accounts cashed, no credit movement and not even a parking ticket anywhere.
"And the reason is Ruben is dead," Won said.
Won said Susan Davis, who befriended Torres when he moved to California, will testify on how she was told about the robbery.
Won said Torres confessed to Davis in 1997 that he was involved in a robbery, and had to "take out" an accomplice who wanted to back out and was going for a gun. Davis is one of 39 witnesses expected to testify.
But Harada said Torres embellished certain details to impress the woman, whom he fancied. Forensic evidence, he said, also will show that there was no murder.
"All these tests showed no blood, no gunshot residue, nothing," Harada said. "There will be no satisfactory answers."
Several witnesses testified yesterday, commenting on Gallegos' demeanor and shy character. Prosecutors hope to characterize Gallegos as someone who was close to his family and also lacked the cunning to participate in the robbery.
The trial is expected to take about two weeks. Torres cannot be charged with kidnapping because the statute of limitations for that offense has expired. There is no statute of limitations for murder in the state.